About

Starting a dark novel… Conquering demons… The irony of inspiration…

This is my first post in nearly three years. In December last year, I quit a fun, quirky job as the editor of a popular book, a job that didn’t really allow me to keep a blog for “company profile reasons”.

There were a myriad of reasons for departing that crazy-but-frustrating role, but my primary motive was because I wanted some time off to focus on my own creative fiction, just because it was something I’ve always wanted to do and because, well, a rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take such a plunge had presented itself. Exciting huh? But if only I could just conquer my personal demons and make the most of that opportunity, dammit…

I’ve had the same idea for my novel or novella for the last two years. A good thing, I think. It’s had time to develop and evolve, and the fact that I’ve stuck with it must mean it has legs, yes? The problem is I’m terrified to actually start writing it properly!

People keep asking me what my novel (or novella) is about. It’s a question I hate being asked and one that usually leaves me blank and clicking my tongue. It’s not that I don’t know what it’s about (of course I do), it’s just hard to describe and categorise, and I tend not to like sharing embryonic ideas, especially when the concept is quite deep.

But to cut it shot, I think my story is a dark, contemporary thriller/drama/satire that has little elements of Fight Club, Crash and American Psycho about it. Which is massively ironic because, as it suddenly occurred to me this morning, those are three novels that I’ve tried reading but just couldn’t finish or even get into.

Now don’t get me wrong – Chuck Palahniuk, JG Ballard and Bret Easton Ellis are three fucking amazing writers well beyond my meagre aspirational hopes. I love each and every one of them, and have read many of their works and enjoyed them thoroughly. They are heroes of mine.

However, I just found Crash to be incredibly dense and felt it read like one big gratuitous piss-take; I found American Psycho to be monotonous and controversially, too boring to stick with (I know, I know, it’s supremely clever and I didn’t get to the good parts), and Fight Club…well, actually Fight Club I loved to be honest. I’d just read so much Palahniuk by that point that I really need a long, extended break from his idiosyncratic style.

So yeah, my novel(la) will share minor thematic traits with three genius novels that I never finished. I just hope that I can actually finish MY novel – because then that would be real irony!

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BIZARRE MAGAZINE: MY FAVOURITE FEATURES

Following the mag’s official closure announcement last week, I thought I’d follow picture editor/photographer Tom Broadbent in picking my favourite features that I worked on for Bizarre Magazine, across nearly 10 years of being a freelance-cum-in-house contributor.

One of the harshest criticisms being levelled at this great mag is that ‘it had been going downhill for years’. While I’m careful not to say anything out of turn, the mag had far more staff and waaaay bigger budgets back in its heyday. But the team behind it were always a bunch of wacky, super-talented weirdoes slapping their proverbials right to the grindstone, and the quality features were always still evident for me.

I read some great pieces by excellent writers on voodoo exorcism, the biker who cannibalised his own severed digits, the woman with two vaginas, Mexico’s Angel of Death (Santa Muerte), the man who found his long-lost bearded mummy, the Mexican mummy museum, and in the final issue, the man who turned his amputated leg into a lamp (which incidentally is up for sale if anyone fancies a cute showpiece for the lounge).

From a personal perspective, I’m also very proud of some of the things I was able to write for Bizarre. Many of these were borne off the back of some highly memorable and ‘bizarre’ days, including the visit to Matron’s ‘Colonic Clinic’ and a day spent getting my butt-kicked at a mixed wrestling studio (while humiliatingly adorning a Hulkamania vest, which my scrawny arms were too feeble to rip).

If I had to pick a handful of my favourites that I personally worked on, it would – at a push – probably be these…

1) THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED THE BERLIN WALL

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I was freelancing on the website when I stumbled across the personal site belonging to a Swedish woman who claimed to have married the Berlin Wall in a personal ceremony in 1979, subsequently adopting the married name Wall Winther. Known as an ‘objectum-sexual’ (OS), Wall Winther saw inanimate objects as living beings, and felt an especially strong spiritual and sexual attraction to fences, buildings and guillotines. This wasn’t a fetish, it was a bona-fide sexuality.

I literally spent the next six months finding and gaining the trust of several objectum-sexuals, mostly through forums, including Wall Winther herself (a very lovely and warm lady, I hasten to add), and an American athlete who attributed her sporting success to the relationship she had with her equipment.

After I wrote this article, the subject of ‘objectum sexuality’ literally exploded. There was a major TV documentary produced (I can’t remember if it aired on BBC2 or Channel 4), while Wall Winther’s tale was eagerly reported on across the national media and tabloids. My mum said she even heard it mentioned on an episode of Have I Got News For You. Finding and breaking this tale to the UK still ranks as a journalistic high.

See the full feature here
http://www.stephendaultrey.com/article.php?lifestyle=i-married-the-berlin-wall

2) FIREPLAY

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I pick this not for my words (which were nothing to write home about), but for the phenomenal photography of Michael Loewa. Loewa was commissioned to photograph a German stuntman/fire technician who had a genuine sexual passion for setting himself (and girlfriend) on fire while wearing a wide range of flammable costumes that he had tailored himself. It was a wild, sexual subject, and the stories of a few of the fire fetishists I spoke with seemed pretty ‘out there’ – even if their practices are something definitely NEVER to be tried at home or without qualified supervision.

Full feature here: (WARNING MALE NUDITY: 18+ ONLY)

http://www.stephendaultrey.com/article.php?lifestyle=fireplay

3) THE JAPANESE CORPSE PHOTOGRAPHER TSURISAKI KIYOTOKA

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Tsurisaki Kiyotoka had appeared in the magazine a few years earlier, but I was lucky enough to interview him again in 2013 following the publication of his career ‘best of’ book, simply entitled DEATH. Tsurisaki essentially went round the trouble spots of the world, photographing murder scenes and accidents, often beating emergency services to the grisly aftermath. However, despite the gruelling compositions, Tsurisaki’s images were shot with a careful artistry, and rather than viewing his work as ‘sick’ and gratuitous, Tsurisaki said his passion was fuelled from a pursuit of the ‘ultimate’ – the beauty of death. As I wrote in my previous blog, Tsurisaki encapsulated everything that Bizarre was to me – his work was utterly edgy, provocative and disturbing, but it also had genuine purpose behind it, and it was brave and honest, never shirking from the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that truth happened to be.

See the full feature here http://www.stephendaultrey.com/article.php?lifestyle=Japanese-corpse (WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT)

4) BELLY INFLATION

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I remember when the Bizarre ed. asked if I was interested in becoming a principle ‘sexuality writer’, given I seemed to have accrued a talent for writing about leftfield kinks in an understanding, sensitive manner. I’d written about plenty of fetishes, but stomach inflation (or more to the point, colon inflation) was certainly one of the more extreme. We commissioned a photo shoot with an inflationist in America, who had been posting home-made videos on YouTube where he used aquarium pumps to inflate his belly. Suffice to say, what came back was pretty eye-opening and eye-watering. We definitely had to include a doctor’s warning with this feature!

5) SCHOOL ROLEPLAYERS

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(photo: Jim Plimmer)

Sure, this feature did have a pretty jokey, comical tone on the surface, and I did get to dress up as a schoolboy and visit a very private 1950-style reform school on the Welsh border, overseen by the strictarian (but very playful) Miss Prim. We had English class. We had playtime in the backyard. I put fake tan on my legs because I was overly self-conscious about my pasty legs being printed in a national mag. And, against my wishes, I got spanked. There was one photo of me, mid-spank, where the motion had created an unsightly ripple in my bare bum, making my backside appear horribly deformed. Our art director thought it was brilliant but being a rotten spoilsport I convinced him not to print it. The actual subject though – that some of these ardent roleplayers, many of whom were in their 40s and 50s, often lost themselves in the mindset of a kid for a whole week on boarding school trips – was fascinating. And yeah, that’s me in the main pic with the cap and cheeky tongue-pokey-outy-face.

6) ALTERNATIVE CHRISTIANITY

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Given religion’s potent minefield qualities, I really enjoyed doing this feature about an outsider group of goths, metal-heads, fetishists and punks, who meet every Sunday in a heavy metal pub to worship Jesus Christ, promote love and discuss topical issues with a spiritual slant. That their ‘anti-organised-religion’ group is also welcoming to atheists, pagans and even Satanists, made it a thought-provoking, powerful, and really quite warming piece that generated considerable reader response. The subject may not have been inherently weird in itself, but the people involved were awesome, and its topic certainly caused much debate – and ultimately isn’t that what investigative journalism should be about?

See the full piece here
http://www.stephendaultrey.com/article.php?lifestyle=Alternative-Christianity-Bizarre-Magazine-Oct-2013

RIP BIZARRE MAGAZINE – IT’S TRUE, THE GREATEST MAGAZINE IN THE UNIVERSE WILL BE NO MORE AFTER FEBRUARY 2015

PLEASE NOTE: These are MY views ONLY. These do not in any way represent the views or opinions of anyone else from Bizarre Magazine or the publisher

After having to bite my tongue so hard it now resembles a bloody pulp, I am truly devastated to finally confirm that after 17 years of publication, Bizarre Magazine has closed, and the February issue (on sale 20 Jan) will be its last ever issue.

Since becoming a massive, massive fan in the early 2000s, Bizarre is and will always be my favourite ever magazine. As a young journalist, I was overjoyed to write my first feature for the mag – an article about bizarre prostitutes, entitled ‘oh what a lovely whore’ – published in 2005. Since then I’ve been unbelievably lucky to write and edit sections for the mag (and website) on many occasions, working with some of the most incredible, talented and unique individuals in the business, each of them blessed with their own quirky super powers that you’ll never find in many other offices, that I’m very certain!

Bizarre’s troubles in recent years have been there for all to see for everyone who stuck by us. It became a long, drawn-out struggle. Nothing was more heartbreaking for me than reading comments that the mag had gone drastically downhill over months/years, especially right after working until 3am some nights on various features, which I would pen almost purely out of passion and intrigue. Truth is, as a fan, I agreed with many of the comments (at least the more insightful ones). However, for reasons far, far beyond the editorial team’s control, and due to ever-decreasing budgets in this increasingly print magazine-unfriendly world, producing this incredible magazine had become an impossible task. By the end, the entire magazine was being put together by just four freelance staff, albeit very, very passionate ones.

But I’d far, far rather dwell on the plus points – and there are MANY of those.

To some people, Bizarre was trashy, grotty, juvenile and full of cheap shocks (one medical fetish dominatrix actually declined my request for an interview because she considered Bizarre to be immature and voyeuristic, describing it as a “rubbish comic for people who find Jackass funny”!!?).

To others it was a brave, irreverent eye on a strange and colourful world, reporting on areas other publications were too scared to touch (although that is certainly not the case these days). But Bizarre could be as educational and informative as it was shocking, it could be as funny as it was tragic, and it could certainly be as humane, relevant and heartwarming, as it was provocative, exploitative and grisly.

To me Bizarre was always a celebration of the individual and individuality. It was against prejudice and a kick in the balls of normality. And now that I have become something of a human cat in recent years, I certainly think it represents me more than any other publication possibly could!

If there is one other fantastic thing I can take away from Bizarre, it’s that I still managed to write some truly incredible, once-in-a-lifetime features for this non-conformist brand, even when we were struggling – I was the first person to report on the woman who married the Berlin Wall, which I’ll forever cherish as a career high. I also interviewed belly fetishists (for which we organised a photo shoot with a bank worker in America who secretly inflated his belly with bicycle pumps), animal roleplayers (a special mention to the fantastic Mistress Liliane Hunt who, like a kinky Beatrix Potter, is warm and funny and blessed with a brilliant imagination), the Japanese corpse photographer Tsurisaki Kiyotaka, whose work for me summed up exactly what Bizarre was about – dark, dangerous and edgy, but filled with subversive wonder and powered at its core by a heart of gold.

Other stand-out features for me include the dating agency for the death industry, a first-person piece where I actually transformed into a teenage schoolboy at a 1950s roleplay school retreat near Wales (I’ll confess that I put fake tan on my legs for that shoot because I was worried about how pasty my legs were!), visiting the adorable ‘Matron’s’ naughty clinic in South-West England and being treated to an incredible slap-up meal, and hanging out chatting about all sorts of weird shit with such immeasurable industry legends as Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, Masuimi Max and Morat, Slash, Tiger Lillies, and the rock band Clutch, who possibly possess the craziest, driest humour I’ve ever encountered outside of England.

At the moment I’m still in mourning at the slow, tragic demise of this great publication. I may write more later, but for now all I can say is RIP Bizarre Magazine – you gave so many people so much, even if you were just a shadow of your former self in the end…

Twitter: @SteveyKitten
LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-daultrey/a2/732/209

The Beards : admiring the impressive facial hair at Xmas London show, 18 Dec

Last month, I went to Kings Cross Scala to see The Beards, a quartet of hairy, comedy rockers from Australia whose repertoire of fun, derivative rock songs feature lyrics exclusively about, well, beards. Having interviewed the guys in Jan 2014 for Bizarre (and having being ridiculed by them, somewhat drunkedly, for being bereft of any stubble whatsoever) I was curious to see what kind of crowd they’d attract – whether it would be heavy rock fans, student hipsters, comedy fans, or literally just a load of bearded men, all wishing to proudly celebrate their facial foliage with fellow fuzz-faces. Turned out to be predominately very much the latter. And what fun it was, even from a baldy-faced ‘cat man’ perspective like myself. Suffice to say, I took a few snaps of some proudly hairy dudes, none more so than this sartorially elegant chap who, unsurprisingly, is also a keen reader of British style bible The Chap Magazine.

Thanks to @DaveBWMusic for the guestlist to the show!